Backpage.com Sex Trafficking Controversy

Updated

Today we are talking to Andrea Powell, Founder & Executive Director FAIR girls and Victoria Pannell, Model, Actress, & Activist about the following TV and online ad that targets Backpage.com over the child sex trafficking controversy. See below for the official press release and tune in at 3pm et for the full conversation.


Powerful Ad Tells True Story of 13-Year Old Advertised for Sex On Website;
Urges Public to Join Campaign to Shut Down Backpage.com’s Adult Section

WASHINGTON, DC – A new television and online ad is launching today that portrays a 13-year old survivor of child sex trafficking who was advertised by her pimp on Backpage.com. The ad is the latest in a string of efforts to convince Village Voice Media, owner of the general classifieds website Backpage.com, to shut down the adult section of the site where children and teens have been advertised by others for sex.

Sponsored by FAIR Girls, a social service organization dedicated to preventing the exploitation of girls worldwide with empowerment and education, the 30-second ad will be unveiled online today and will debut on television Sunday on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. It also will air several times on cable next week.

VIEW THE AD HERE:

The ad recounts the true story of a 13-year old girl who was repeatedly advertised for sex by her pimp on Backpage.com. Her experience of exploitation began when she was only 9 years old. At 12, her trafficker started marketing her on Backpage.com. To protect her identity, a young actress and activist, Victoria Pannell, plays the part of the survivor.

“Almost every single sex trafficked girl we have assisted in the U.S. this year was sold by her pimp using the adult section of Backpage.com. In the past year, the number of girls we have assisted has more than doubled. For us, this is not just a campaign. This is about protecting real girls from being victimized,” said Andrea Powell, Co-founder and Executive Director of FAIR Girls.

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes added, “Backpage.com is the new street corner where traffickers pimp their often underage victims, and many of the 40-plus indictments secured by my Sex Trafficking Unit in the past two years involve advertisements on Backpage.com.”

The ad urges the public to join the campaign demanding Village Voice Media shut down the adult section of Backpage.com by signing a petition sponsored by Pannell on SignOn.org.

View the petition here:

The campaign also rallies the public to contact 26 major advertisers in Village Voice Media’s 13 flagship publications and ask them to join the human rights movement by immediately discontinuing their advertisements in Village Voice Media newspapers until the company closes the adult section of Backpage.com.

FAIR Girls’ call to advertisers follows similar appeals made by Groundswell, the social action initiative of Auburn Seminary and convener of a coalition of 700 clergy speaking out about Backpage.com, four U.S. Senators, Change.org, and other activists. Their collective efforts have resulted in several national brands, including AT&T, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, and IHOP, ceasing their advertisements with Village Voice Media.

Learn more about the advertiser effort here:

According to an analysis by the trade organization AIM Group, Backpage.com is the leading U.S. website for prostitution advertising, generating an estimated $2.6 million monthly, or $27.4 million annually, from the sale of online escort ads.

“Backpage has made the trafficking of girls it business model. We must call for the end of any business venture that profits from the exploitation of vulnerable children,” said Malika Saada Saar, Executive Director of the Human Rights Project for Girls, a human rights organization dedicated to protecting the rights of vulnerable young women and girls in the U.S.

Since August 2011, 51 of the nation’s attorneys general, 700 multi-faith religious leaders, 53 leading anti-trafficking experts and organizations, 19 U.S. Senators, state and city lawmakers around the country, over a dozen prominent musicians, nearly a quarter of a million citizens, and others have called on Village Voice Media to exit the adult ad business.

“As a teenager, I was advertised by my pimp on Backpage.com. This year, one of the men who bought me put a knife to my throat and almost killed me. The police rescued me, and with the help of FAIR Girls, I’m rebuilding my life. I am 20 years old now, but I continue to see girls, often much younger than me, who are sold by pimps using Backpage.com. This has to stop,” said a sex trafficking survivor who wished to be identified as Nina.

“Backpage.com is the common denominator in the overwhelming number of our sex trafficking cases. It enables pimps to advertise children for sex. Shutting it down will go a long way towards protecting these girls and supporting our law enforcement efforts,” said Laura Neubauer, Chief of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Sex Trafficking Unit.

Village Voice Media owns the general classifieds website Backpage.com and a number of newspapers around the country. Its 13 flagship publications are: The Village Voice in New York City (NY), SFWeekly in San Francisco (CA), LAWeekly in Los Angeles (CA), OC Weekly in Orange County (CA), Denver Westword in Denver (CO), St. Louis Riverfront Times in St. Louis (MO), Phoenix New Times in Phoenix Arizona, Dallas Observer in Dallas (TX), Houston Press in Houston (TX), Miami New Times in Miami (FL), Palm Beach New Times in Broward County (FL), Seattle Weekly in Seattle (WA) and Minneapolis City Pages in Minneapolis (MN).

FAIR Girls (formerly FAIR Fund) prevents the exploitation of girls worldwide with empowerment and education. Through prevention education, compassionate care, and survivor inclusive advocacy, FAIR Girls creates opportunities for girls to become confident, happy, healthy, young women. Founded in 2003, FAIR Girls currently operates programs in Bosnia, Serbia, Russia, Uganda, and the United States. The FAIR Girls home office in Washington, D.C. offers compassionate care to prevent the exploitation of all girls, with a special emphasis on girls who have experienced trafficking, sexual abuse, homelessness, and life inside the foster care system.

Backpage.com Sex Trafficking Controversy

Updated